Monday, October 24, 2011

One Missed Flight

There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. - Victor Hugo

Two years ago yesterday, my mother and father rushed down to Florida (we live in Virginia) as my aunt had called to indicate that my grandfather was getting worse, and not better, after his latest bought with cancer, this time oesophageal as opposed to lung cancer, which he’d beaten almost two decades ago.  I didn’t go; not wanting to miss work, or go running onto a plane and paying God knows what to get there.  It is now, on the anniversary of his death, that I reflect on what was one of my poorest decisions.

I was never close to my grandfather, either of them actually.  My father’s father died when I was less than fifteen, I’d met him maybe twice.  I knew of him, but never knew him.  My mother’s father, as is often the case I find, we knew quite well.  My mother’s parents have always been a huge part of our life, and it is rather telling, I think, about the family aspect that men or women have as they start their own families.  I find men seem less committed to keeping their family ties close, whereas girls have a tendency to maintain very strong bonds.

My grandfather and grandmother lived in India most of their lives, having an arranged marriage.  My grandmother stayed at home with the kids while my grandfather was a professor at Delhi University.  He was a very intelligent man, very well read, and studied at Leeds in England, a premier school even then.  He penned a book or two and contributed to a dictionary between Arabic, English and Urdu, or what you Americans call ‘Indian.’  I never really knew much about my grandfather save for the interactions we had within the family.

As you may know, I’m not terribly popular in the family.  I never do things the ‘way’ you should, but I’m always respectful.  My grandfather never really liked me, I think.  If he did, it was never clear.  Despite that, duty to family is something most girls in my culture are indoctrinated to.  When he moved here, after my grandmother died, he stayed briefly with my aunt before destroying the relationship between my aunt and uncle, and was forced to move to Virginia.  He lived with us for some years, and while I can’t say I ever looked back on that time as positive, he was another family member you had to live with.  I find that American families I see have a tendency to ship their older parents into homes, as opposed to taking care of them.  I can’t even imagine putting my parents in a home.  And I couldn’t imagine putting my grandfather in a home, but he was never dependent upon anyone for much.

After staying with us for a short period of time, my uncle moved to West Virginia, and he decided to move out there.  It wasn’t long before he had worn out his welcome, so my parents ‘convinced’ my sister and I to buy a home for my grandfather to live in.  This is one reason I don’t heed my parent’s financial advice today, as I’m still paying that debt, long after he’s passed on.  He was thankful, of course, he knew the burden we were taking on, though I doubt he ever fully realised why it was necessary.

My grandfather, like most older people, demand respect from the youth, but in this day and age, and I find on this site a lot, young people don’t show any respect to anyone older than them.  It is as if young people have seen it and done it all, which is not even close to true.  I read the general rudeness on this site and often think of the tart comments you’d receive from my grandfather.  He never outright denigrated or insulted anyone, no, he was far too clever for that, he would use the passive aggressive approach and loop it to infinity.  If you were being too loud, he would say, ‘You’re doing that wonderfully, but can you do it louder?’  As a child, I never understood how condescending he was being, and even now I can’t fault him for it.

On my mother’s side of the family, we always had an unwritten list of who his favourite grandchildren were.  My sister always topped the list, as she was the first grandchild he had, my uncle’s oldest son often swapped second with my uncle’s daughter, while my aunt’s middle daughter and I were in the middle, with my aunt’s oldest daughter always at the bottom.  I have another cousin, but he was born late and never really made the list.  It was quite a bone of contention to increase your standing on the list, but no matter my efforts, I’d never succeed in any substantive way that he’d be interested in.  The key being, the list of things to do, was hidden, it was a mystery.

I realise this entry is starting to look like a rant, but really, I loved my grandfather.  He was my grandfather, and often times, quotes are kind of right, you can’t control how you feel about someone sometimes.  And in this instance that is the case, no matter how inconsequential or insignificant my actions seemed to him, I still wanted to find some common ground.  And I’m not faultless, I’m sure there were times I said or did something that offended him, but it happens in all relationships.

Back to the present, as my parents flew down in haste to Florida, I mulled over my decision.  The very next morning, one of my cousins’s called me, after staying at the hospital the previous night all night, to tell me he was looking worse and worse and I should have flown in with my parents.  At this news I was really shocked.  I hadn’t expected his health to deteriorate so quickly.  In the early 1990’s, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, after a life of smoking (let that be a lesson to all you smokers out there – though I know it isn’t), this meant that his doctors should be checking on cancer every time he got a check-up.  Imagine our surprise in May of that year that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Oesophageal Cancer, there were three stages that went completely unnoticed.  Needless to say, once the diagnosis was made, it became somewhat psychosomatic, and his spirit fell as he was no longer able to eat solid foods and more that I won’t go into.

The last time I saw my grandfather was about three weeks before he died.  I had flown down with both of my cousins from WVa and my sister, and it was the first time we were all together in a few weeks, as my sister got married earlier that month.  We had a great time over the weekend, but didn’t spend a ton of time with my grandfather, as you might expect, he wasn’t well and wasn’t really up to entertaining.  I’d like to think he was glad we were there, but with him you could never tell.

While I realise this entry has rambled a bit, I feel like I need to reflect on his death, and my decisions that led me not to be there when I probably should have been.  I know now, and then, that I couldn’t do anything to change the circumstances, you can’t alter that path, none of us can.  And I realise not all families are functional, most are dysfunctional.  But when the patriarch of the family dies, I feel like it was important for all of us to be present.

I feel disappointed in myself, and in the information I based my decision off of.  I made assumptions about things that I had no business guessing about.  What frustrates me more is I see myself still making these same sorts of decisions even now.  But to place something like that on chance is poorly thought out.  And I look back now and can easily see that the man was on death’s door.  And no matter the circumstances of our relationship, or lack thereof, it was incumbent upon me to make the right decision.

The sense of regret I feel probably won’t ever go away.  In many ways, by his death, my grandfather brought the family closer together.  Unfortunately, as is often the case, I will more likely remember the hurtful things my grandfather said and did over the positive things, but that is human nature.  I want to say I’ve learned from this, but even now I fall back on bad habits.  The point, if there was one, of this entry, was merely to illustrate how assumptions can hurt you.  Though, there was a lot of other filler in there as well. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

What Happens in the Little Charmander’s Room Should Stay in the Little Charmander’s Room

For those of you that don’t know, I don’t like to use normal words, so let this be the first in what should be a series of entries about the sub-language of created, which requires a Lexicon to understand.  ‘Little Charmander’s Room’ refers to the bathroom.  I don’t think this one needs more explanation, but if you require one, and can get the comments to work, have at it!

So, what is proper restroom etiquette?  I went into the bathroom, to use it obviously, and someone was crying in the stall.  There are only two stalls in the bathroom.  I just beat feet as soon as I could, and commented to my male co-worker that he’s probably never dealt with such a thing, which of course, he hadn’t.  I realise where else would you go, besides your car, to cry in quiet, but if someone does go there, it isn’t to be comforted by some stranger, right?

I have no idea.  But I thought I’d include, for my sister to send to her Met Life rep, the pics of my office from a couple years back with all those Snoopys in it.  Enjoy!

Also – here’s a link to my Video Game Blog – which I update almost daily.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my Apple tree

Sometimes I take things for granted, we all do, in many aspects of our life; and technology is just one of them.  I can’t ignore, but don’t want to inundate anyone with news about the passing of the Steve Jobs, but it is something worth noting.  Words that are describing him now, in the wake of his passing: visionary, pioneer, courageous, you name it.  And who could deny those monikers?  They are well deserved.  He built something that was unthinkable, he did things people thought would fail because he hadn’t ‘done the research’ or couldn’t know what people wanted.  As someone who has worked in the Information Technology (computers) field my entire adult career (of over 10 years), I can honestly say that I hated Steve Jobs as I hated Bill Gates, but I could never have done my job adequately without either.

Before I was even born, Steve Jobs had already dropped out of college and started working on his idea, making a machine that was easy to use and functional.  Looking back, I can’t imagine where I would be, occupation-wise, without him.  He was the one that started the graphical user interface (GUI) in computers.  If it had been left to Bill Gates, we’d all be memorising code to this day.

What Steve Jobs did can’t be summarised in any eulogies or speeches.  People will try, just check the news sites and see the mass text and video that is appearing out of nowhere.  Like hungry vultures, the news sites finally have something of note to report back on.

But it is people like us, the gamers, computer geeks, regular folks that should take a moment and reflect on what Steve Jobs did to make our lives easier, crazier or fun.  If you had told me ten years ago Apple products would be as prevalent as they are, I would have told you that you’d lost your mind.  When I fist started studying technology, I knew what the Apple could do, but still considered it to be a graphics tool more than anything, something for the art students to use, but normal folks could continue to use the PC.  It did everything they needed.

I wasn’t wrong, but what Steve Jobs did was take his Apple computer concept and build on it in ways that others never would have thought of.  It started slowly, Mac books making appearances here and there, and then out of nowhere, we have the iPod.  I never bought one, I still don’t have one.  I’ve bought them as gifts, whether they are used or not, I couldn’t say.  But the idea, the very idea to be able to have that much music in a tiny little device was unfathomable in the early 2000s.  When I first saw it, I thought, ‘this is idiotic, who is going to buy this.’  And with a new iteration every few seconds, it seemed like a bad idea.

I’m big enough to admit I was wrong.  The iPod was just the beginning of the revolution.  In the decade that I took to my occupation, I saw major changes to the industry.  When I first started, the very idea of having Macs and PC’s in the same network was unheard of.  Today, we’re integrating desktops, laptops, blackberries and a variety of tablets into our everyday business.  None of this would be possible without Steve Jobs.

Even now I have the iPad, and for the love of God, I can’t figure out what to do with it, though all my friends are happily offering to take it off of my hands, I must admit that it is sleek, efficient, fast as all get-out and the design is maddeningly perfect.  I have resisted liking Apple products for years, but after winning my iPad, I knew I wanted an iPhone soon and would probably get the iPod at some point as well.  I knew it, the moment I started mucking around on it, I knew.  And that was what Steve Jobs did, he anticipated what people needed before they realised they needed it.

What is amazing about Jobs is that he dropped out of college, something most of us today would shudder at.  Every day I wonder, as I sit in my office, am I better of here, or is there another version of me, more successful, out there, that I could have been if I hadn’t bothered with quite so much education.  Looking at stories like Jobs’, it makes me very uncertain.  It isn’t always about the book learning that gets you where you are.  And for a man to be the proponent of thinking outside the box, in every sense of the word, without a true degree is unreal, but there it is.

Think back, ten years ago, did you ever think smart phones would be where they are today?  Would you have guessed that the iTunes would be a common site you visited?  So many things Steve Jobs pioneered, made relevant, made versatile, made valuable.  It wasn’t that he created these things from nothing, but he improved upon ideas, stood on the shoulders of giants, and made things larger, reached more audiences, enhanced people’s every day life.

Steve Jobs wasn’t perfect, he had many ideas that never came to fruition, but what made him stand out, what made him impact and change all of our lives was the simple fact that he was a dreamer.  When I heard of his passing, it immediately made me think of Jim Henson.  While a puppeteer isn’t quite the same as the CEO for a computer company, they both achieved similar things – they weren’t quelled by what was right or how things should be done, they dreamed something and made it so.  There aren’t enough dreamers in the world, and we lost a great one last night, and I’ll be hard pressed to find another dreamer like Jobs to materialise again any time soon.

‘Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.  Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.’ –Steve Jobs, 2005

The title is a quote from the late Martin Luther King Jr.